Antibiotics for children that are covered by private insurance cost five times more in the United States than in the United Kingdom, where costs are covered by a government universal health plan.
That’s the finding of researchers who looked at data from 160,000 U.S. and U.K. children younger than 10 years old who were prescribed one or more drugs in 2009. Antibiotics were given to 75 percent of the U.S. children and 50 percent of the U.K. children.
The estimated cost of antibiotics covered by private insurers in the United States was more than $2.4 million, compared with less than $480,000 in the United Kingdom, according to the study, which was published in the December 26, 2013 online issue of the journal Pharmacotherapy.
The antibiotics commonly prescribed in the United States were regularly more expensive and taken for longer lengths of time, the investigators found.
The latest findings that antibiotics for children were much more expensive in the United States than the United Kingdom are similar to those in three previous studies, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Hershel Jick, of Boston University’s Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program.
The cost of prescription drugs is a major burden on the U.S. economy, the researchers said. As the final phases of the new health care reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, begin to take effect, there has been renewed attention and debate on the topic of health care spending in the United States.
The researchers said this type of comparison study can lead to new policies that result in greater efficiency and major cost savings.
SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Dec. 19, 2013
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